CRAIG CONLEY (Prof. Oddfellow) is recognized by Encarta as “America’s most creative and diligent scholar of letters, words and punctuation.” He has been called a “language fanatic” by Page Six gossip columnist Cindy Adams, a “cult hero” by Publisher’s Weekly, and “a true Renaissance man of the modern era, diving headfirst into comprehensive, open-minded study of realms obscured or merely obscure” by Clint Marsh. An eccentric scholar, Conley’s ideas are often decades ahead of their time. He invented the concept of the “virtual pet” in 1980, fifteen years before the debut of the popular “Tamagotchi” in Japan. His virtual pet, actually a rare flower, still thrives and has reached an incomprehensible size. Conley’s website is
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The Right Word

January 4, 2017 (permalink)

Here's one from the next edition of our dictionary of all-vowel words: Oo, a place name "never pronounced without awe and reverence," named after "a great god who dwelt under the sands of the desert"; "a wonderful place full of gold and jewels where demons dwelt," located several hundred miles down the southerly-flowing Darke River.  It is also known as "the city of unnumbered lights" and is capital of the Orbello kingdom.  Every portion of the city is subterranean except for its fortification and tower.  (The Mysterious City of Oo by Charles Lotin Hildreth, 1889.)
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Why "friendlyable"?  It's an anagram of "blared finely."  (More negatively, it's also an anagram of "fib learnedly."  More fantastically, it's an anagram of "Elf by Ireland.")
Why "funable"?  (It's an anagram of "Be fun, L.A."  But another anagram is "baneful.")
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January 2, 2017 (permalink)

"Getting through metempsychosis, oneirocritical, asafoetida, and synecdoche."  From Judy, Or The London Serio-Comic Journal, 1875.
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December 25, 2016 (permalink)

Here's some vegetable-based wordplay, date uncertain.
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December 22, 2016 (permalink)

"Howdydoski?"  From c. 1908, courtesy of UpNorth Memories.
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December 21, 2016 (permalink)

Here's a rare word (only nine Google results) for heraldic symbols -- aristoglyphics.  From 1838.
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December 5, 2016 (permalink)

Here are some uncanny mystical ciphers from Zanoni by Edward Bulwer Lytton, 1856.
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December 3, 2016 (permalink)

"Argyfying," from Judy, or the London Serio-Comic Journal, 1883.
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December 2, 2016 (permalink)

To our knowledge, the only instance of "workusser" appears in "The Gilded Pill" by George Manville Fenn, in Once a Week Annual, 1878.  As we see in the context, the definition of "workusser" is "workusser."
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November 19, 2016 (permalink)

Here's a book on degeneration that's deteriorating.  Degeneration by Max Simon Nordau, 1895.
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November 15, 2016 (permalink)

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November 10, 2016 (permalink)

Here's the serpentine squiggle from Tristram Shandy, translated into French by Honoré de Balzac for inclusion in his novel La Peau de Chagrin and then converted back into English by Balzac's translator Ellen Marriage.  See our collection of this squiggle's transliterations here.
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"Some words passed between us."  From 1906.
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November 7, 2016 (permalink)

"Skedaddled."  From Alter Ejusdem by James Archibald Sidey, 1877.
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November 3, 2016 (permalink)

In Absolutely Fabulous (series 3, episode 3), students seek a name for a presentation.  They brainstorm "gen...etics ethics" and "gentics."  But we found the name they never landed on: genethliacal (as seen in Genethliacal Astrology Comprehending an Enquiry Into, and Defense of the Celestial Science by John Worsdale, 1798).
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October 26, 2016 (permalink)

What's older than ancient?  The obsolete spelling: antient.
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October 25, 2016 (permalink)

Here's some maledicta from a c. 1890 ad for luncheon meat.
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October 23, 2016 (permalink)

It's nice when authors give some advance notice of a red herring.  In this case, though, the red herring is not a misleading clue but an actual fish.  From Snarleyyow Or the Dog Fiend by Frederick Marryat, 1837.

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October 22, 2016 (permalink)

"'Too low they build, who build beneath the stars.' —Young.  From A Practical Grammar by Stephen Watkins Clark, 1847.
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October 6, 2016 (permalink)

"Veni—vidi—skedaddleali."  By Harry Bullock-Webster, ca. 1875.  Scanned by the University of British Columbia Library.
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